Nikko Hall

Congratulations to Seattle's Great Waves, winners of Saturday night's Sound Off! finals at EMP. The band played a fantastic set of indie rock laced with folk and bluegrass touches—sometimes they reminded me of Arcade Fire, other times Fleetwood Mac. Coming in second was self-taught harpist Hooves and Beak, while Candysound and Seacats came in third and fourth, respectively.

Great Waves may have been crowned kings (and queen) last weekend, but all the bands played well—and walked away with a load of career-boosting prizes. Great Waves secured a slot at Bumbershoot, Hooves and Beak will be playing Folklife in May, Candysound get to open for a national touring act at the new Hard Rock Cafe, and everyone gets some studio time and gear from KORG and Epiphone. But perhaps best of all is a new addition to the Sound Off! prize package: an industry consultation from the Pacific Northwest chapter of the Recording Academy.

I know it doesn't sound as sexy as getting your song added to Rock Band's catalog (another prize in Great Waves' bounty, by the way), but it helps answer an important question for Sound Off! finalists: What happens next? A number of past finalists have wound up signing record contracts not long after the competition—Natalie Portman's Shaved Head, Mon Frere, New Faces, and Idiot Pilot, just to name a few—but the world is full of bad contracts, and even a good one doesn't guarantee success. Sound Off! can open up some great opportunities, but such young bands don't always have the experience or knowledge necessary to make the most of it.

So along with the studio time and radio appearances, the Recording Academy wants to make sure these bands are prepared for what comes next—I can't think of a more valuable prize. So, again, congratulations to everyone! Just remember to read the fine print when the suits (inevitably) come calling.

Recommended All-Ages Shows

Fri March 12: Magma Festival: Council of Lions, Emeralds, My Parade, Cold Lake, and more at 20/20 Cycle, 7:30 pm, $8.

Support The Stranger

Sat March 13: Rocky Votolato, Adam H. Stephens, the Terrordactyls at Neumos, 8 pm, $13.

Mon March 15: Elephant Micah, Lougow, Jason Clackley, Hooves and Beak at Bluebird Ice Cream, 7 pm, free.